NMDOT to revamp I-40 pedestrian bridge to stop graffiti, vandalism

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – There may finally be a permanent fix for what’s become a hub for a lot of ugly marks on one of Albuquerque’s gateways.

The New Mexico Department of Transportation says it now has a new plan to revamp the pedestrian bridge near I-40 and Coors that’s constantly being tagged with graffiti.

The work should begin in about two weeks, involving rebuilding a piece of the bridge where vandals are said to be gaining access. Crews are planning to target the maintenance access cage under the bridge.

Many neighbors see the graffiti tags on the bridge as an eyesore that won’t go away.

“Some days, (the graffiti) is bigger and brighter, and it’s erased, and then it’s bigger and brighter again,” said Beth Esquivel, who lives nearby.

For years, vandals have been cutting the chain link fence that borders the underside of the pedestrian bridge. With that access, NMDOT says vandals have been sneaking into the black maintenance cage hanging under the bridge and leaving their tags all over.

The vandalism has left city and state crews with the risky and expensive job of cleaning up the tags time and time again.

“It’s costing the taxpayer each and every time we go and fix it, at least $5,000 for traffic control alone, and that doesn’t count for the labor and manpower and everything else that goes with it,” said Thomas Kratochvil, an assistant maintenance engineer for NMDOT’s Albuquerque district.

NMDOT hopes its new plan for the pedestrian bridge spells the end of the graffiti issue.

“Do I believe it will be successful? Yes,” said Kratochvil. “Will it be 100 percent proof? That remains to be seen.”

The plan Kratochvil is speaking of involves rebuilding the maintenance cage, which protects gas and water lines above the freeway.

“We limit the access for the vandals and vagrants,” said Kratochvil.

Three agencies are paying for the project, including NMDOT, New Mexico Gas and the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority, which paid a contractor to draw up the plans.

“What we’re going to do is shorten the cage, so that those (maintenance access) doors are no longer at the embankment,” said Morris.

By disconnecting the maintenance access doors from the solid ground on either side of the bridge, only one access door will remain. The door will hang at least 10 feet above the bike path.

“Therefore you will only have access by using a hydraulic lift or a cherry picker,” said Morris.

Still, Kratochvil remains cautiously optimistic about the planned changes.

“I’m confident to the point that it will reduce the frequency of graffiti,” said Kratochvil. “But as anybody can see, no matter what we can do, there’s going to be always a vandal or somebody that will find a way of breaking through the features that we’ve designed.”

Neighbors hope it’s finally the end of the eyesore they see almost daily.

“We want Albuquerque to be a place that’s inviting,” said neighbor Beth Esquivel.

The project doesn’t have a final cost, however, the Water Utility Authority spent $40,000 drawing up the plans. The other work is expected to cost both New Mexico Gas and NMDOT between $25,000 and $30,000 apiece.

According to NMDOT, the transportation agency will “remove and salvage” the necessary portions of the bridge, while New Mexico Gas will pay for a contractor to build out the new limited access point.

Crews are expected to begin work November 6, 2017. The state hopes the project will be done by the end of the year.

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